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or a marriage-feast, as at a funeral; sighs at the conclusion of a merry story, and grows devout when the rest of the company grow pleasant. After all, Sombrius is a religious man, and would have behaved himself very properly, had he lived when Christianity was under a general persecution.
I would by no means presume to tax such characters with hypocrisy, as is done too frequently; that being a vice which I think none but he, who knows the secrets of men's hearts, should pretend to discover in another, where the proofs of it do not amount to a demonstration. On the contrary, as there are many excellent persons who are weighed down by this habitual sorrow of heart, they rather deserve our compassion than our reproaches. I think, however, they would do well to consider, whether such a behaviour does not deter men from a religious life, by representing it as an unsocial state, that extinguishes all joy and gladness, darkens the face of nature, and destroys the relish of being itself.
I have, in former papers, shown how great a tendency there is to cheerfulness in religion, and how l such a frame of mind is not only the most lovely, but the most commendable in a virtuous person.
In short, those who represent religion in so unamiable a light, are like the spies sent by Moses to make a discovery of the Land of Promise, when by their reports they discouraged the people from entering upon it. Those who show us the joy, the cheerfulness, the good-humour, that naturally spring up in this happy state, are like the spies bringing along with them the clusters of grapes, and delicious fruits, that might invite their companions into the pleasant country which produced them.
An eminent Pagan writer has made a discourse to show that the atheist, who denies a God, does him less dishonour than the man who owns his being, but at the same time believes him to be cruel, hard to please, and terrible to buman nature. “For
my own part, (says he,) I would rather it should be said of me, that there was never any such man as
The two hows in this sentence do not correspond to each other, either, in sense or construction. I have shown how great—that is—in what degree; I have shown how such a frame of mind is—that is on what account. The first how is applied to the adjective ; the second how, to the derb. Both these anomalies may be avoided by altering thus—“I have shown how great a tendency there is to cheerfulness in religion, and how lovely, and even commendable, such a frame of mind is, in a virtuous person.”
Plutarch, than that Plutarch was ill-natured, capricious, or inhuman.”
If we may believe our logicians, man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter. He has a heart capable of mirth, and naturally disposed to it. It is not the business of virtue to extirpate the affections of the mind, but to regulate them. It may moderate and restrain, but was not designed to banish gladness from the heart of man. Religion contracts the circle of our pleasures, but leaves it wide enough for her votaries to expatiate in. The contemplation of the Divine Being, and the exercise of virtue, are in their own nature so far from excluding all gladness of heart, that they are perpetual sources of it. In a word, the true spirit of religion cheers, as well as composes the soul; it banishes, indeed, all levity of behaviour, all vicious and dissolute mirth, but in exchange fills the mind with a perpetual serenity, uninterrupted cheerfulness, and an habitual inclination to please others, as well as to be pleased in itself.
No. 495. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27.
Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus
Ducit opes animumque ferro. Hor. As I am one, who, by my profession, am obliged to look into all kinds of men, there are none whom I consider with so much pleasure, as those who have anything new or extraordinary in their characters, or ways of living. For this reason I have often amused myself with speculations on the race of people called Jews, many of whom I have met with in most of the considerable towns I have passed through in the course of my travels. They are, indeed, so disseminated through all the trading parts of the world, that they are become the instruments by which the most distant nations converse with one another, and by which mankind are knit together in a general correspondence; they are like the pegs and nails in a great building, which, though they are
but little valued in themselves, are absolutely necessary to keep the whole frame together.
That I may not fall into any common beaten tracks of observation, I shall consider this people in three views: first, with regard to their number; secondly, their dispersion; and, thirdly, their adherence to their religion : and afterwards endeavour show, first, what natural reasons, and, secondly, what providential reasons, may be assigned for these three remarkable particulars.
The Jews are looked upon by many to be as numerous at present, as they were formerly in the land of Canaan.
This is wonderful, considering the dreadful slaughter made of them under some of the Roman emperors, which historians describe by the death of many hundred thousands in a war; and the innumerable massacres and persecutions they have undergone in Turkey, as well as in all Christian nations of the world. The Rabbins, to express the great havoc which has been sometimes made of them, tell us, after their usual manner of hyperbole, that there were such torrents of holy blood shed, as carried rocks of a hundred yards in circumference above three miles into the sea.
Their dispersion is the second remarkable particular in this people. They swarm over all the East, and are settled in the remotest parts of China: they are spread through most of the nations of Europe and Africa, and many
families of them are established in the West Indies ; not to mention whole nations bordering on Prester John's country, and some discovered in the inner parts of America, if we may give any
credit to their own writers. Their firm adherence to their religion, is no less remarkable than their numbers and dispersion, especially considering it as persecuted or contemned over the face of tho whole earth. This is likewise the more remarkable, if we consider the frequent apostasies of this people, when they lived under their kings in the Land of Promise, and within sight of their temple.
If in the next place we examine, what may be the natural reasons for these three particulars which we find in the Jews, and which are not to be found in any other religion or people, I can, in the first place, attribute their numbers to nothing but their constant employment, their abstinence, their exemption from wars, and, above all, their frequent marriages ; for they look on celibacy as an accursed state, and generally are married before twenty, as hoping the Messiah may descend from them.
The dispersion of the Jews into all the nations of the earth, is the second remarkable particular of that people, though not so hard to be accounted for. They were always in rebellions and tumults while they had the temple and the holy city in view, for which reason they have often been driven out of their old habitations in the Land of Promise. They have as often been banished out of most other places where they have settled, which must very much disperse and scatter a people, and oblige them to seek a livelihood where they can find it. Besides, the whole people is now a race of such merchants as are wanderers by profession, and, at the same time, are in most, if not all, places incapable of either lands or offices, that might engage them to make any part of the world their home.
This dispersion would probably have lost their religion, had it not been secured by the strength of its constitution; for they are to live all in a body, and generally within the same enclosure, to marry among themselves, and to eat no meats that are not killed or prepared their own way. This shuts them out from all table conversation, and the most agreeable intercourses of life; and, by consequence,
excludes them from the most probable means of conversion.
If, in the last place, we consider what providential reason may be assigned for these three particulars, we shall find that their numbers, dispersion, and adherence to their religion, have furnished every age, and every nation of the world, with the strongest arguments for the Christian faith, not only as these very particulars are foretold of them, but as they themselves are the depositaries of these and all the other prophecies which tend to their own confusion. Their number furnishes us with a sufficient cloud of witnesses, that attest the truth of the Old Bible. Their dispersion spreads these witnesses through all parts of the world. The adherence to their religion makes their testimony unquestionable. Had the whole body of Jews been converted to Christianity, we should certainly have thought all the prophecies of the Old Testament, that relate to the coming and history of our Blessed Saviour, forged by Christians, and have looked upon them, with the prophecies of the Sibyls, as made many years after the events they pretend to foretell.
No. 499. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2.
Pers. My friend Will. Honeycomb has told me, for above this half year, that he had a great mind to try his hand at a Spectator, and that he would fain have one of his writing in my works. This morning I received from him the following letter, which, after having rectified some little orthographical mistakes, I shall make a present of to the public. “ DEAR SPEC.,
I was, about two nights ago, in company with very agreeable young people of both sexes, where talking of some of your papers which are written on conjugal love, there arose a dispute among us, whether there were not more bad husbands in the world than bad wives. A gentleman, who was advocate for the ladies, took this occasion to tell us the story of a famous siege in Germany, which I have since found related in my historical dictionary, after the following man
When the emperor Conrade the Third had besieged Guelphus, duke of Bavaria, in the city of Hensberg, the women, finding that the town could not hold out long, petitioned the
emperor that they might depart out of it, with so much as each of them could carry. The emperor, knowing they could not convey away many of their effects, granted them their petition; when the women, to his great surprise, came out of the place with every one her husband upon back. The emperor was so moved at the sight, that he burst into tears, and after having very much extolled the women for their conjugal affection, gave the men to their wives, and received the duke into his favour.
“ The ladies did not a little triumph at this story, asking us at the same time, whether in our consciences we believed that the men of any town in Great Britain would, upon the same offer, and at the same conjuncture, have loaden themselves with their wives; or rather, whether they would not